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Quality, Creativity and Curatorial Mastery

‘The Watchman/Wake up Soldiers, Open Your Eyes’ . Ali Cherri

Art Basel's 2024 edition in Basel recently concluded, following a week of robust sales, across all sectors of the art market.

With presentations from 285 galleries and drawing an overall attendance of 91,000 throughout the VIP and public days, the show, with its expanded programme in the city's public spaces, could not go unnoticed.

VIP collectors wasted no time acquiring prized pieces reflecting their interests, from prestigeous galleries. The general public, too, art lovers in their own right, were eager to explore the creations that lay behind the show's doors and be part of the event's phenomenon.

The Wake and Resurrection of the Bicentennial Negro,’ Faith Ringgold

Yet these are uncertain times, and so it was reassuring that participating exhibitiors expressed so possitively about the fair's outcome. Here are some of the comments:

"Despite facing challenging socio-political times, said Rachel Lehmann, Co-Founder. Lehmann Maupin, "the art market remains alive and important.  Throughout the week, we've made multiple six figure sales including the placement of many important works. Art Basel always feels like a home-coming, and remains the go-to art fair. The energy and calibre of the fair this year continues to be unmatched."

Mehdi Chouakri, Founder, Mehdi Chouakri Berlin commented "Art Basel proved to be once again a top art fair. We experienced very well informed, dedicated and sophisticated visitors and with the sales results to match."

Iwan Wirth, President, Hauser & Wirth said "In spite of the "doom porn" currently circulating in the art press and along gossip grapevines, we were very confident in the art market's resilience and the first day of Art Basel confirmed this perspective. We sold more works on the opening day of the fair, than we did on the first day of Art Basel last year. We were also very active on day two, as busy as the first day would be at any other fair. The moral of the story: true quality and great relationships always prevail."

Serena Cataneo Adono, Senior Director, Gagosian said "This year's Art Basel attracted exceptional worldwide collectors and the fair's careful curation of the Unlimited section, echoed their interest in important historical artworks, which puts an accent on the health of the art market globally."

Maike Cruse, Director, Art Basel in Basel

Commenting on Basel's strategic importance  Maike Cruse, Director, of the fair in Basel said "Art Basel in Basel has once again affirmed its position as the foremost convening point for the global art trade. The quality and ambition of works presented at the show this year were nothing short of extraordinary, met with an exceptional attendance of collectors from all over the world resulting in excellent sales across the market. The week has been marked by vibrant activity both within our halls and throughout Basel, with our expanded public program drawing enthusiastic attendance. Basel, as the historic and symbolic home of Art Basel, demonstrated its vital role as a cultural hub, and I am excited to lead this all-important event into its next chapter.'

Indeed, the careful curation of Unlimited to which I, like many others, made a b-line, struck a harmonious balance of themes and art genres. Among the highlights were short films, including ‘The Watchman/Wake up Soldiers, Open Your Eyes’ a suspense piece accompanied by a sculptural installationstatue by Ali Cherri.

In the realm of artists reclaiming ancestral and cultural roots, Faith Ringgold’s work stood out prominently. Her piece, ‘The Wake and Resurrection of the Bicentennial Negro,’ featured in ‘Unlimited’ and presented by Goodman Gallery, left a lasting impact.

Conceived in response to the bicentennial celebrations of 1976, Ringgold (1930-2024) eloquently expressed her perspective: ‘I certainly agree with many Black people at the time, that we had no reason to celebrate 200 years of American Independence. For almost half of that time, we had been in slavery, and for most of the following years, we had still been struggling to become fully free. So this was a wake, not a celebration.’

Sudanese-Norwegian artist Ahmed Umar, named one of two winners of the 2024 Baloise Art Prize for his solo show 'Forbidden Prayers' presented in the 'Statements' section of Art Basel through Oslo based contemporary gallery OSL, offered a critical examination of European perceptions of African culture.

The series comprised of fifteens sculptural works, each corresponding to a personal prayer, using objects and materials collected over the years by the artist, and intricately repurposed and transformed. Each sculpture is accompanied by a unique life-size acrylic cast of the artist's right hand in various gestures that reflect the movements used during prayer.

Umar’s approach dismantled the constructed image of the ‘exotic,’ infusing these materials with his own story. Notably, the show also featured an exquisite, ornate tapestry that adorned the entire booth’s ceiling, casting gentle illumination and creating a distinctive Sudanese-inspired atmosphere.

Beyond these highlights, there were many other delights that captivated visitors. Here’s a brief video clip showcasing some of my personal favourites. And no doubt, I will be delving into the works of yet more artists that I have come across over the past few weeks. Stay tuned!

Images taken by Hazel Clarke at Art Basel in Basel 2024


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